Pan Am flight 103

Top 10 deadliest airplane crashes.

The deadliest airplane crashes have always been in the public eye. Over the years, many people have lost their lives onboard planes. Each accident has taught us something and air travel has become the safest means of transport in the world. It has come at the price of many lives lost but let’s see what are the deadliest airplane crashes?

10. Pan Am flight 103

Four days before Christmas 1988, the United Kingdom’s deadliest terrorist attack took place. Pan Am flight 103 using a Boeing 747-121 was hijacked over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The plane took off from Frankfurt for Detroit with two stops in London and New York. A bomb placed on board the aircraft exploded killing 259 people. The crash killed 11 people in the Scottish town of Lockerbie, bringing the total death toll to 270. The person responsible for the attack was of Libyan origin and was jailed for life after being found responsible for the loss of all 270 lives.

9. American Airlines flight 191

Deadliest airplane crashes
Photo taken by Michael Laughlin, Image source: Chicago Tribune

The deadliest airplane crash to occur on U.S. soil was American Airlines Flight 191 using a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 aircraft. On May 25, 1979, the plane took off from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport bound for Los Angeles. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft’s left engine separated from the wing. This resulted in the generation of uneven lift on the two wings, then control of the aircraft was lost. The aircraft rolled onto its left side and crashed killing all 271 people on board and two more people on the ground, bringing the total number of fatalities to 273. After investigation it was found that the structure supporting the engine was damaged and the blame for the accident fell on the poor maintenance of American Airlines.

8. Iranian Ilyushin Il-76 crash

Ilyushin Il-76

In 8th place on our list of the deadliest plane crashes is the crash of the Iranian Ilyushin Il-76. In February 2003, the aircraft crashed in the mountains of Iran killing all 275 people on board. They were members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the reason for the crash was the bad weather.

The crash is Iran’s second-deadliest after Iran Air Flight 655.

7.Iran Air flight 655


On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 was targeted by a missile from a US Navy cruiser. The aircraft, an Airbus A300, departed from Tehran for Dubai with 290 people on board. The plane was completely destroyed and all the people on board were killed. This event happened during the war between Iran and Iraq and the blame for this tragedy has been shifted back and forth between the two countries, the United States and Iran.

6. Malaysia Airlines flight 17

Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Number 6 in the ranking of the deadliest airplane crashes is Malaysia Airlines flight 17. On 17 July 2014, a Boeing 777 was shot down by a missile fired from the ground on the border between Ukraine and Russia. The plane had departed Amsterdam bound for Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew onboard, according to Britannica. Most importantly, the accident happened during the war in Donbas. At the time, a group of pro-Russian rebels used Russian rockets to shoot down the airliner.

After the investigation, Russia denied any connection with the crash. With a total of 298 victims, this is the deadliest accident involving a downed airliner.

5. Air India Flight 182

Ian Kirby, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

On 23 June 1985, a Boeing 747 belonging to Air India was the victim of a terrorist attack. The plane took off from Montreal and was due to land in London with 329 people on board. Over the Atlantic Ocean, a bomb exploded destroying the aircraft and killing all the people on board. The group of terrorists involved was part of a Canadian and British criminal organization.

According to the Canadian government, this is the largest terrorist attack in Canadian history.

4. Turkish Airlines Flight 981

Steve Fitzgerald (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2 ), via Wikimedia Commons

On 3 March 1974, Turkish Airlines flight 981 using a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 crashed in a forest near Paris. There were 346 people on board. Initially, the aircraft departed Istanbul with a stop in Paris, eventually landing in London, its final destination. After take-off from Paris, the cargo door on the left side detached from the aircraft, resulting in a sudden depressurization. Within seconds, the pilots lost control of the aircraft and it crashed into the Ermenonville forest. According to, the aircraft was at 783 km/h (0.62 mph) at the time of impact and all 346 people on board died.

3. The collision over Charkhi Dadri

Andy kennaugh (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2), via Wikimedia Commons

The Charkhi Dadri crash is the deadliest mid-air collision in aviation history. On 12 November 1996, Saudia Flight 763 using a Boeing 747 collided with an Ilyushin Il-76 operating Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907. Consequently, all 346 people on board the two aircraft died. The investigation found that the captain of the Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft was at fault for flying at a lower altitude than indicated in the flight plan.

After the accident, it was found important that passenger aircraft should be equipped with Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).

2. Japan Airlines Flight 123

Kjell Nilsson, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Japan Airlines Flight 123 is the deadliest single-aircraft crash ever. It occurred on August 12, 1985, when a Boeing 747SR suffered an in-flight decompression. As a result, the aircraft’s tail and hydraulic system were damaged. Therefore the pilots lost control of the aircraft and it crashed in the Takamagahara Mountains, 100 km from Tokyo, the take-off location.

The crash killed 520 of the 524 people on board, four of whom survived.

1. Tenerife Airport Disaster

Tenerife Airport disaster
A photo of the two airplanes taken before the accident- Image source

The Tenerife airport disaster is number one on the top of deadliest airplane crashes in history. It took place on 27 March 1977 when two Boeing 747s operating flights KLM 4805 and Pan Am 1736 collided on the runway at Tenerife airport. As a result, a total of 583 people lost their lives

To sum up, this accident was the result of a series of incredible coincidences, the most important of which was the decision of the KLM captain to take off without tower clearance.

What do you think is the most unbelievable accident? Write in the comments section below.

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